These hazelnut shortbread sandwich cookies are basically Nutella in fancy, beautiful, melt-in-the-mouth cookie form. The toasted hazelnuts in the buttery shortbread mingle with the luscious milk chocolate ganache and make the very best of this classic flavour combination. The cookies are also gluten free – not that you could possibly guess it!
I’m sure we can all agree that hazelnuts and chocolate are a match made in heaven – and these wonderful hazelnut shortbread sandwich cookies make the very best of this amazing flavour combination.
First up, there’s the hazelnut shortbread. It’s gluten free and (as is typical of shortbread) egg free as well, and it has the perfect buttery, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread texture. The cookies are absolutely packed with ground toasted hazelnuts as well as a hint of vanilla.
Then, we have the milk chocolate ganache filling. It’s velvety-smooth, glossy and incredibly luxurious – honestly, I want to put it into and onto everything, it’s so good. It’s made from just two ingredients: a good quality milk chocolate and double/heavy cream.
The ganache is chilled in the fridge for a short while, so it thickens to a spoonable or pipeable consistency. You can use a spoon to divide it between cookies, but I prefer to pipe it with a small round nozzle for a neater finish.
And while these two components are delicious on their own – put them together and you get what is essentially Nutella in fancy, beautiful, melt-in-the-mouth cookie form. Now, doesn’t that sound absolutely heavenly??
I also love these cookies because they’re bite-sized (and we all know that mini versions of things are about 1,000 times cuter). I used a 2 inch (4cm) cookie cutter with a fluted edge to make them and gosh, they’re so pretty.
Of course, you could make them larger without any problems if you wish, but you will need to extend the baking time by a few minutes.
And that’s pretty much it. I’m keeping this one short and sweet. Partially because I’m in the middle of moving house and so I’m writing this up in between bursts of packing and organising – but more importantly because this recipe genuinely couldn’t be much easier, so it really doesn’t need much explanation or super detailed step-by-step photos. It’s basically fail-proof and the results are so, so incredibly delicious.
Suffice to say that I’ve made these hazelnut shortbread sandwich cookies three times already just in the last two weeks… and I just can’t get enough of them. Every bite is an explosion of flavour, with the toasted hazelnuts in the buttery shortbread mingling with the luscious milk chocolate ganache.
I really hope you’ll love them as much as I do.
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Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Ganache (Gluten Free)
For gluten free hazelnut shortbread:
- 90 g (⅔ cup) hazelnuts
- 120 g (1 stick + ½ tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
- 75 g (¼ cup + 2 tbsp) light brown soft sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 210 g (1 ¾ cups) plain gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour blend, which doesn't contain added xanthan gum. You can also mix your own blend with 50% finely ground white rice flour, 30% potato starch and 20% maize flour by weight.)
- ¾ tsp xanthan gum (Omit if your gluten free flour blend already contains xanthan gum.)
- ¼ tsp salt
For milk chocolate ganache:
- 150 g (5.3 oz) milk chocolate, chopped
- 100 g (⅓ cup + 1 ½ tbsp) double/heavy cream
For gluten free hazelnut shortbread:
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and line two large baking sheets with baking/greaseproof paper.Tip: You will bake the cookies in several batches, so you can line 2-3 baking sheets if you have them on hand. Otherwise, just re-use the same baking sheet, but make sure to cool it completely before you place the next batch of unbaked cookies onto it.
- First, toast the hazelnuts:Place the hazelnuts on a lined baking sheet and spread them out into an even layer.Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 12-14 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are a golden colour and their skins start loosening. Once toasted, allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer them into a clean tea towel and rub them vigorously to remove their skins.Discard the skins, allow the hazelnuts to cool completely, and then grind them finely in a food processor or blender. Set aside until needed.
- In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together the softened butter, light brown soft sugar and vanilla bean paste until combined. Don’t cream the butter – just stir it all together until you get a homogeneous mixture.Tip: You don't want to cream the butter and sugar together, as that aerates the mixture (that is, it incorporates air into it), which can cause the cookies to spread and lose shape in the oven.
- Sift together the gluten free flour blend, ground toasted hazelnuts, xanthan gum and salt, and add them to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon until the dough starts coming together, then knead it by hand until smooth.
- Roll out the cookie dough between two sheets of baking/greaseproof paper to a thickness of about 5mm. Tip: Rolling out the cookie dough between two sheets of baking/greaseproof/parchment paper prevents it from cracking during rolling. It also eliminates the need for dusting your work surface with extra flour, as you don't want to incorporate more flour into the cookie dough.
- Once you’ve rolled out the dough to a thickness of about 5mm, cut out the cookies using a 2 inch (4cm) round cookie cutter (for prettier cookies, use a cookie cutter with fluted edges). Re-roll the scraps until you use up all the dough – you should get a total of 64 individual cookies (that will give 32 sandwich cookies).
- Transfer the cookies onto the lined baking sheet(s), spacing them out slightly (leave about 1cm/½ inch of space between them, they don’t really spread out during baking).Tip: You can use a small offset spatula to lift the cut cookies off the baking paper. Be gentle with them as they're fairly fragile.
- One baking sheet at a time, bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 12-14 minutes until light golden brown.
- Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
For milk chocolate ganache:
- Place the chopped milk chocolate into a heat-proof bowl.
- In a saucepan, bring the double/heavy cream just to the boil, then pour it over the chocolate, making sure that the cream covers the chocolate as much as possible. Allow to stand for 2-3 minutes, then stir together until smooth and glossy.Tip: Usually, dark chocolate ganache is made with a 1:1 cream-to-chocolate ratio (or an even higher ratio where you use a larger amount of cream). However, milk chocolate gives a much softer ganache, so a larger amount of chocolate is required to give a ganache that sets nicely (otherwise, the ganache could be too runny to sandwich between cookies).
- Chill the ganache in the fridge for about 15 minutes with occasional stirring until it firms up slightly and reaches a spoonable/pipeable consistency.
Assembling the cookies:
- Transfer the ganache into a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle and pipe dollops of ganache onto the flat (under)side of half of the cookies (about 6-7g of ganache per cookie).
- Sandwich with the other half of the cookies, so that the flat (under)sides are facing each other. The recipe gives a total of 32 sandwich cookies.
- The cookies keep well in an airtight container in a cool dry place for about 1 week.